I've always been a bit too trusting. I tend to think people are nice until proved otherwise. And if they do something thoughtless or unexpectedly selfish, I always think they must have a reason, and give them the benefit of the doubt, until eventually I suddenly wake up and think: No, hang on a minute - they should not have done that, and I'm not happy about it, and I feel a fool for believing in them!
It's happened to me this time with someone who, while not a personal friend, I've known for quite a long time. Someone who asked to buy some copies of one of my books from me (and I let him have them cheap) and then didn't pay me. Simple as that. It was my own fault for handing them over without payment - he didn't have the cash on him but promised it a couple of days later. The days passed, I saw him again, nothing was said. I hated having to ask for the money but figured he must have forgotten, so reminded him in a friendly manner and got another promise. And so it went on. Each time I saw him, there was a different excuse; he'd forgotten, he'd been away, he was skint. I sympathised, laughed it off, said there was no hurry - because I knew him. Or I thought I did.
Eventually I went from sympathising and laughing it off to feeling miffed and upset. Why did he think it was OK not to pay me? Did he assume I'd got those paperbacks for nothing myself? I'd had to pay my publisher for them, and sold them on to him for little more than they cost me. And even if I hadn't been making such a small margin of profit, he'd agreed the price happily and I was entitled to the money! Writing is my business, part of my livelihood. Would he take something from a shop and say he was too 'skint' to pay for it? Or 'forget' to pay his gas bill?
My reminders changed in tone from gentle to serious. His excuses went on. He'd lost his cheque book, he'd meant to post me a cheque but he forgot my address, he'd been mugged. You get the picture. And at long last, so did I. He had no intention of paying me.
As I say - he wasn't a friend, so it isn't exactly a personal hurt. But while I'm as capable as anyone of forgetting something once or twice, I can't imagine doing something like this to anyone - ignoring continual reminders - and I just find it inexplicable when someone does it to me. It's not actually about the money at all - the sum involved is small, and although I don't make much money from my writing I can afford to say I'd rather forget it, write it off, than upset myself any further by continuing to chase it.
I'd like to say I've learnt my lesson, and as far as this particular person is concerned, I obviously have! And yes, if I find myself in a similar position again, I'll ask for the money before I part with the goods. But will I stop expecting people to be nice, and trusting them, and making excuses and allowances for them? Well, no, I think I'd prefer to carry on in that vein, actually! I don't want to become suspicious and distrusting of everyone, and I'd like to think people will make allowances for me if I'm genuinely forgetful, or if I'm not always very nice.
So to the guy who rang my doorbell today and tried to sell me a cleaning treatment for my driveway, I'm sorry I pointed out that we have a 'No Cold Callers' sign on our door, and I'm sorry that when you said 'Well everyone has those signs so we take no notice', I pretty much shut the door in your face.
At least, you know, if I did ever agree to have any work done by your company, at least I'd bloody well pay you!